Arup and SOM tapped to lead major reimagining of Newark Liberty Airport

EWR Overhaul

Arup and SOM tapped to lead major reimagining of Newark Liberty Airport

Debuting in 1928, Newark Liberty is the oldest of the New York Area's much hated-on (but improving) threesome of major airports. It is also one of the oldest airports in the U.S. (Nicholas Jehly/Unsplash)

With LaGuardia Airport continuing to emerge from its transformative, much-praised redo and construction now underway on John F. Kennedy International’s massive, $9.5 billion Terminal One, the New York City metro area’s other much-maligned major air travel hub, Newark Liberty International, is also set to undergo a major reimagining. Led by the just-announced team of Arup, in the role of master planner, in partnership with Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill (SOM), the future redevelopment of Newark Liberty will follow a $2.7 billion overhaul of Terminal A led by Grimshaw Architects set to debut later this year as the largest design-build project in New Jersey. The new state-of-the-art facility spans more than 1 million square feet and replaces the current outdated Terminal A that first opened in 1973.

Pre-pandemic, Newark Liberty ranked as the 12th busiest airport in the United States per total passenger numbers with 33 airlines serving more than 47.5 annual travelers in 2019, per a press announcement released by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which also operates LaGuardia and Kennedy along with a pair of smaller general aviation facilities in Bergen County, New Jersey, and Orange Country, New York. Newark Liberty is the second busiest facility in the New York airport system (itself the busiest system in the world after London) after Kennedy. Opening on October 1, 1928 as Newark Metropolitan Airport with its operations based out of a single, art deco terminal building, the airfield now known Newark Liberty is also one of the oldest airports in the U.S.

“The Port Authority is driving a $30 billion investment in transforming the region’s airports into a network of modern, world-class gateways,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton, in a statement. “The vision plan for Newark will guide its transformation into a 21st century best-in-class global hub, and the selection of these two world-renowned firms will help us advance that vision.”

As for Arup and SOM’s role in crafting a comprehensive vision plan for the future of Newark Liberty, the Port Authority explained that the two firms have been “tasked with developing a comprehensive development strategy and blueprint – including extensive local community outreach and participation – to accommodate future growth and demand, improve the travel experience and identify opportunities for enhancing the sustainability and resiliency of the facility.” Together the firms will oversee future “architectural, planning, engineering, and business development services” while taking into consideration the impact that the pandemic has had on Newark Liberty, including volume and customer demand. As for future growth and demand, the plan will create a blueprint for how to accommodate this through the year 2065.

Focus areas will include thinking outside of the roughly 2,000-acre facility by exploring new land use opportunities within the surrounding Port District and bolstering economic opportunities in and around Elizabeth (the city where Newark Liberty is located) as well as the neighboring city of Newark and further afield. The team has been charged with developing a strategy for more efficient parking facilities and road access at the airport, including the potential creation of a new Ground Transportation Center, according to the Port Authority. Sustainability and climate resiliency, as mentioned, will play key roles in the plan. Terminal B, also opened in 1973 and overhauled during major renovations in subsequent years, will also potentially be replaced.

Together and individually, Arup and SOM have a vast amount experience helming airport development projects both in the U.S. and abroad. SOM’s robust portfolio of past and current airport projects include Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Kansas City International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru,  Singapore Changi Airport, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai , and the 2010 25 Year AIA Award–winning King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. The Chicago–headquartered global architecture and engineering firm has also been involved with past work at Newark Liberty, namely the $1.2 billion redevelopment of Terminal C (the Continental Global Gateway Project) completed in 2003. Arup has also led projects at several of these same airports, many in partnership with SOM, as well as at Hong Kong International Airport, London Heathrow, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and San Francisco International Airport, where the firm recently developed a zero net energy sustainability plan.

“Newark Liberty International Airport is a foundational piece of our transportation network, connecting New Jersey, New York and beyond, to the world,” said Laura Ettelman, managing partner at SOM. “SOM is honored to partner with Arup and the Port Authority to reimagine, revitalize, and future-proof the EWR campus. Working together, we will create a more sustainable, efficient campus with increased capacity and smoother operations for airlines, and above all, elevate the passenger experience.”

“The Arup team, including SOM and over 20 other firms, including many from the Newark and Elizabeth area, are committed to supporting the Port Authority in creating a model for a sustainable and community focused hub that can help reduce our impact on the climate, and at the same time foster economic growth for a more resilient future,” added Tom Kennedy, Arup project director and Americas east aviation leader.